Many different parts of the Department of Justice are actively engaged in investigating and prosecuting human trafficking crimes, stabilizing and supporting trafficking victims, and expanding outreach and training. The Civil Rights Division, Criminal Division, U.S. Attorneys' Offices, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Office of Justice Programs all play important roles in the Department’s broad-based anti-trafficking efforts. Many of these components contain multiple offices or sections that each work on different aspects of the fight against human trafficking.
- Civil Rights Division's Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit
- Criminal Division
- United States Attorneys' Offices
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- Office of Justice Programs
- Office for Access to Justice
Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, Civil Rights Division
Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, a specialized prosecution unit within the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division, was formed in 2007 to consolidate the expertise of some of the nation’s top human trafficking prosecutors and to lead prosecutions of novel, complex, multi-jurisdictional and international human trafficking cases involving forced labor, international sex trafficking, and sex trafficking of adults through force, fraud, or coercion, in collaboration with United States Attorneys’ Offices nationwide. In addition to its prosecutions, the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit plays a leading role in formulating and implementing path-breaking enforcement initiatives, strengthening strategic partnerships, and developing and delivering capacity-building programs on best practices in survivor-centered human trafficking investigations and prosecutions for federal, state, local, tribal, and international law enforcement and non-governmental partners.
The Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) leads the Criminal Division’s campaign against the sexual exploitation of children. CEOS, in partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s offices, works to investigate and prosecute federal child sexual exploitation cases, including the prostitution of children and the extraterritorial sexual abuse of children (often called “child sex tourism”). Within CEOS is the High Technology Investigation Unit, whose Digital Investigative Analysts provide critical and innovative support to cases involving digital media. CEOS uses its experience and expertise in child sexual exploitation cases to shape domestic and international policy, launch national and international investigations against the worst offenders, and provide guidance and training to other prosecutors and agents, both within and outside the federal government and at home and abroad. CEOS develops strategic partnerships among and outside of law enforcement circles in order to expand the effectiveness of the Department’s overall enforcement efforts, having developed critical partnerships with key non-governmental organizations, foreign governments and entities, and the private sector.
The Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section (Money Laundering Section) leads the Department’s anti-money laundering and asset recovery efforts. The Money Laundering Section works specifically against human trafficking by: (1) investigating, coordinating, and prosecuting complex, multi-district, and international money laundering and criminal and civil asset forfeiture cases against suspected human trafficking groups and their assets (including property that facilitates human trafficking), and against individuals and entities who facilitate the movement of money for such groups; (2) providing legal and policy assistance and training to federal, state, and local prosecutors and law enforcement personnel, with specific attention to the use of financial-investigation tools to strengthen human trafficking investigations and cases around the country and overseas; (3) assisting Departmental and interagency policymakers by developing and reviewing legislative, regulatory, and policy initiatives that may affect cases in its covered areas; and (4) through its management of the Department’s Asset Forfeiture Program, distributing forfeited funds and properties to victims of human trafficking (both labor and sex trafficking) and child-exploitation crimes. The Money Laundering Section works in close partnership with the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, and United States Attorneys’ offices around the country.
OPDAT draws on DOJ’s resources and expertise to strengthen foreign criminal justice sector institutions and enhance the administration of justice abroad. OPDAT designs and executes anti-trafficking technical assistance and training programs overseas to strengthen international capacity to combat human trafficking. Drawing on the expertise of experienced trafficking prosecutors from CRT’s HTPU, CEOS, and USAOs, OPDAT has developed and delivered programs providing expertise and assistance in drafting and implementing anti-trafficking legislation, successfully investigating and prosecuting human trafficking crimes, and assisting human trafficking victims. When appropriate, OPDAT collaborates on human trafficking programs with ICITAP, its sister organization that develops and provides training to foreign police and criminal investigation institutions.
OPDAT provides technical assistance throughout the world based on a holistic model encompassing the 3Ps of human trafficking: protection, prosecution, and prevention. OPDAT assistance includes training and developmental projects with overseas law enforcement officials geared toward strengthening our international partners’ capabilities to (1) protect victim witnesses and thereby encourage their participation in investigations and prosecutions; (2) investigate and prosecute trafficking cases; and (3) prevent transnational trafficking. OPDAT also works with host countries on developing evidence-collection techniques that can generate evidence usable in transnational prosecutions, including those brought by DOJ in the United States. OPDAT assists countries with legislative reform and drafting in the area of human trafficking to ensure that such legislation is victim assistance-centered and compliant with the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the U.N. Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (also referred to as the Palermo Protocol).
ICITAP uses the following strategies to build overseas law enforcement capacity to combat human trafficking:
- Increasing awareness and understanding in host country law enforcement institutions of the devastating impact to victims and threats to health and security posed by human trafficking;
- Helping foreign governments create new law enforcement tools to combat human trafficking through legislative reform (whenever possible this is done in concert with OPDAT);
- Building sustainable institutional capacity to fight human trafficking through the development of host country policies, procedures, and training resources and capabilities;
- Building tactical and investigative capacity, including the creation of specialized investigative units;
- Building technical capacity, including case management, border security, other systems for data collection, data sharing, and data analysis;
- Improving coordination of police and prosecutors on human trafficking cases;
- Incorporating human trafficking—one of the revenue sources of organized crime groups—as a component in assistance programs focused on combating transnational organized crime;
- Facilitating cross-border, law enforcement cooperation among countries in the region that are part of the same human trafficking network;
- Facilitating partnerships between police and other stakeholders, including victims’ advocacy groups, labor and social protection organizations, and the community; and
- Ensuring coordination with international organizations and other donors.
The United States Attorneys' offices (USAOs) prosecute defendants charged with human trafficking crimes, including labor trafficking, sex trafficking, and sex trafficking of children, sometimes collaborating with specialized prosecution units such as the HTPU or CEOS. Prosecutors and victim assistance personnel provide human trafficking victims services and ensure victims are accorded their rights throughout the criminal justice process. USAOs lead or participate in human trafficking task forces and collaborate with federal, state, local and nonprofit community partners to raise awareness and prevent human trafficking.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is responsible for investigating human trafficking and supporting the victims of this crime. That work is carried out by the Civil Rights Unit, the Violent Crimes Against Children Program, and the Office for Victim Assistance.
CRU investigates all violations of domestic sex trafficking of adults, international sex trafficking of adult and juvenile victims, and forced labor trafficking of adult and juvenile victims. After initiating a Human Trafficking Task Force (HTTF) platform in 2015, CRU now coordinates 11 FBI-led HTTFs and participates in more than 100 task forces and working groups across the nation. The FBI also partners with DOJ, DHS, and DOL through the ongoing ACTeam Initiative [INCLUDE LINK]. These partnerships facilitate collaborative efforts between the FBI and state, local, tribal, and federal partners in an ongoing affirmative effort to recover victims of trafficking and ensure successful prosecution of those who victimize vulnerable victims. CRU’s work also includes the new Labor Trafficking Initiative (LTI), which is a proactive platform to identify potential instances of labor trafficking being utilized by field offices throughout the FBI.
VCAC has a number of investigative priorities, including the investigation of child sexual exploitation enterprises, trafficking of child pornography, domestic and international child abductions and parental kidnapping, and other offenses involving children. With respect to the prostitution of children in the United States, VCAC runs the Innocence Lost National Initiative (ILNI).
In the 13 years since its inception, the ILNI has expanded to 74 dedicated Child Exploitation Task Forces composed of more than 400 law enforcement agencies throughout the U.S. These task forces work in tandem with U.S. Attorney’s Offices and the FBI’s Office for Victim Assistance. To date, these groups have worked successfully to rescue more than 6,000 children. Investigations have successfully led to approximately 2,000 indictments and 30 life sentences in federal, state, and local court.
VCAC coordinates Operation Cross Country, the FBI’s annual law enforcement action focused on recovering underage victims of prostitution and drawing the public’s attention to the problem of sex trafficking at home and abroad. In 2016, Operation Cross Country expanded to become an international enforcement action, with Canada, Cambodia, the Philippines, and Thailand joining the FBI and its local, state, and federal law enforcement partners—along with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC)—during the coordinated three-day operation that ended October 16.
The FBI’s Office for Victim Assistance (OVA) is responsible for ensuring that victims are identified in all FBI cases, notified of their rights and services to which they are entitled, provided updates on the status of their cases and assistance to help them cope with the impact of the crime.
The OVA’s priority services to victims includes victims of violent crimes, crimes against children, and civil rights violations – thus encompassing victims of human trafficking. To fulfill these responsibilities, the OVA includes approximately 153 Victim Specialists (VSs) located throughout the nation's 56 field offices, 11 regionally located Child/ Adolescent Forensic Interviewers (CAFIs), 2 Child Victim Program Coordinators embedded within the Violent Crimes Against Children Section, and 10 regional Program Managers who provide guidance, oversight and case support to the VSs.
The FBI utilizes a victim-centered, multi-disciplinary approach when investigating human trafficking cases by incorporating its VSs as a vital part of the operational team. The VSs are available 24/7 to respond on scene, assess the needs of victims upon recovery, and coordinate with community partner agencies to provide appropriate services as soon as possible, including: food and shelter; mental health/counseling; medical/dental services; and, substance abuse treatment. Longer term needs may include: legal/immigration services; education; employment; and, job skills training. Due to the traumatizing nature of human trafficking offenses, these multi-disciplinary relationships are instrumental to the success of human trafficking investigations.
To ensure the needs of victims are met throughout the judicial process, the VSs coordinate with the United States Attorneys’ Office Victim Witness Coordinators following indictment of the case to provide a continuum of services for the victims. VSs also conduct human trafficking education and awareness presentations to other professionals in the community which aids in the identification of potential victims.
Child/Adolescent Forensic Interviewers are experts in providing evidence based, developmentally appropriate, and legally defensible interviews for domestic minor victims of trafficking and adult victims who have been identified as having special needs. CAFIs developed and provided trainings specific to investigative personnel on interviewing this population of victims. CAFIs also provide training for other child advocacy professionals.
The Child Victim Program Coordinator is the FBI's expert on child victimization who provides guidance and support to the field offices during large scale operations and individual cases. The Coordinator also conducts trainings for FBI personnel and other professionals on child exploitation and best practices for the provision of services.
The Office of Justice Programs (OJP) provides innovative leadership to federal, state, local, and tribal justice systems, by disseminating state-of-the art knowledge and practices across America, and providing grants for the implementation of these crime fighting strategies.
The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) works to enhance the Nation’s capacity to assist crime victims. With funding appropriated through the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and its subsequent reauthorizations, as well through the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015, OVC administers grant funding to support services for victims of human trafficking. In addition to funding a wide range of services to address the individualized needs or sex and/or labor trafficking victims, OVC supports ongoing training and technical assistance to service providers, criminal justice professionals, task force leaders, and allied professionals. To learn more about OVC’s work in the area of human trafficking, please visit ovc.gov/trafficking.
The National Institute of Justice funds research on human trafficking and evaluates promising practices. The overall emphasis for NIJ’s research lies on (1) strengthening the science of measuring the prevalence of human trafficking, (2) improving the identification, investigation, and prosecution of traffickers, and (3) identifying best practices for providing services to victims. While NIJ focuses on human trafficking as it occurs in the United States, it draws on research and coordinates findings from around the world.
The Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, develops training for law enforcement and communities to identify trafficking in persons and funds task forces based on a sound strategy of collaboration among state and local enforcement, trafficking victim service providers, federal law enforcement, and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices.
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, funds the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program and implements a number of training and capacity-building initiatives related to responding to and addressing the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Visit OJJDP’s Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children webpage and Human Trafficking – Services for Survivors webpage for additional information.
The Office for Access to Justice (ATJ) works to increase access to counsel and legal assistance for human trafficking victims. Operating primarily through the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable, ATJ collaborates with 22 participating federal partners to inspire new collaborations to jointly serve the nation’s poor and middle class, including victims of human trafficking, and to better engage civil legal aid providers as federal grantees, sub-grantees, and partners. Since the inception of the Roundtable, participating agencies have worked with civil legal aid partners, including non-profit organizations and the private bar, through outreach calls, webinars and other strategies to identify areas in which legal services can advance various federal program objectives, such as ending human trafficking and serving the needs of victims.